A Very Preppy Sigma Dress

Another holiday post! I’m hanging onto my holiday for dear life (can you tell?), it feels like we’ve been home forever…

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This is the Papercut Patterns Sigma Dress, made up in a medium weight yarn dyed cotton from The Fabric Store. This pattern has been out for ages, but hadn’t really been on my radar until I started looking for a simple dress pattern with a darted bodice and long sleeves to make a winter dress with. Obviously this isn’t the winter dress I was planning, I didn’t get around to making that before our trip (and it’s too warm now, it’ll need to wait until next winter), but I thought that a short sleeved version would be a handy dress to take with us.

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There was nothing in there, very disappointing.

I actually made up a muslin of this dress before cutting into this cotton, which showed that the bust dart was way too high for me. I ended up moving it down by over an inch, but now I’ve got something funny going on with fabric pooling under the dart. I’m going to have another play with the bodice, maybe doing a small FBA to try to get rid of that excess. I’m not too bothered about it with this version, it’s a bit rough anyway! I utterly failed to match the gingham across the centre back seam as well, so it’s definitely not a perfect dress. Aside from the weird fit in the bust, I’m happy with the way this pattern fits. There is a bit of ease in the waist, which I like, and I think the shoulders and sleeves fit really nicely.

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I really like the little gathered patches on either side of the skirt, they add a bit of fullness and movement without adding any bulk or making the skirt too big. I didn’t put the pockets in this one, because the pocket pieces looked really tiny and I couldn’t be bothered pulling out another pattern to find some proper sized ones (I was sewing this pretty close to the trip), but the gathers will help to hide any bulk from the pockets too.

Much as I like the pattern and fabric, I was initially a bit worried that I had made a school uniform when I finished it and tried it on! My uniform was teal, yellow, and black tartan (hideous), so not at all like this, but the grey gingham gave me an unexpected schoolgirl vibe. Definitely not what I was looking for! I’ve tried styling it a few ways, from this super-casual-with-sneakers look to a ultra preppy with brogues and tights, and I think it’ll be ok. Just as well I haven’t made that grey blazer I’ve been planning!

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I was very pleased to have this dress when I was packing for our mini-trip to Portugal, as it ended up being over 30ºc the week that we were there! I got pretty sunburned on our first day (bad!), so having this dress with a higher neck and covered shoulders was perfect. You can see a bit of my sunburn radiating up from my neckline in these photos. It was nice to have a loose dress to wear too, something to let the air circulate around my torso as we were out walking up hills in the heat! These photos were taken at the Castelo São Jorge in Lisbon, in the ‘romantic garden’. The Castle has the most amazing views over the city, it was beautiful! the loose waist also meant I had plenty of room to eat pastel de nata, the amazing custard tarts that are so prevalent in Portugal. I love custard, so I was in heaven with all of their variations on custard and pastry!

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Christmas Day Dress

I feel like I must be the last sewing blogger on the internet to make the By Hand London Anna Dress (though Kat assures me she hasn’t made it either)! there are so many versions of this dress out there, and the bodice seems to get matched up with other skirts all the time. I managed to grab a paper copy of the pattern when BHL stopped printing them, and I’ve imagined it paired with several lengths of fabric from my stash since then. Then when I saw the Cotton + Steel/Rifle Paper Co collaboration, I knew that I would use some of their rayon for my first Anna.

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I’m going to rave about the fabric before I get to the pattern, because I love it so much. You might have noticed that rayon is one of my favourite fabrics to sew and wear, and C+S rayon is even nicer than most. This one is lovely and smooth and drapey, and has a nice weight to it which makes the skirt hang beautifully. And how gorgeous is the print? I’ve always been a fan of Rifle Paper Co., so I was super excited to get some of this fabric (it came from Miss Matatabi, by the way). I also have some of the canvas waiting to be made into shorts, and some of their cotton for a dress…I’m not obsessed at all…

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I really wanted a pattern which would let the fabric be the focal point, and I think the Anna works really well as a canvas. The bodice and cut on sleeves doesn’t have too many seams to interrupt the print, and the multi-paneled skirt hangs and swishes beautifully in the rayon. I also really like the boat neck, I think the width of it is a nice way to offset the higher neckline.

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I did make a muslin of the bodice, as I read enough reviews which said they had trouble with a gaping neckline to be wary. I ended up pinching out nearly an inch on either side of the back neckline, and half an inch of each side of the front. I used the tutorial on Ginger Makes to do my flat pattern adjustment, and it worked really well. I still get some gaping at the back if I roll my shoulders right back (how my mother would ask me to stand!), but I think that’s probably just the nature of a high, wide neckline. When I stand normally it sits nicely. I was surprises that I didn’t need to take any length off the bodice or adjust the bust tucks, it all fit pretty nicely once I had the neckline sorted!

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I’m very pleased with how my zip went in, its one of the most invisible invisible zips I’ve ever sewn! I have a little bit of extra fabric at the back waist, but nothing too major. I have to have some moving room!

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I also discovered that I could do a blind hem with my beloved Bernina! How did I not know I could do this? Its so pretty, and so fast, I love it! Blind hems for everything from now on.

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It’s funny, this dress feels very me three years ago. Its the sort of thing I would have been desperate to buy before I could sew, and the sort of thing I would have sewn until about 18 months ago, but I feel like my style has moved on quite a bit from then! I still really like this dress, and I adore the fabric, so it’ll get worn, but it’s funny to think how much this dress sticks out in my current wardrobe. Its nice to have some really girly dresses in there, I suppose. I was planning on this being my Christmas day dress, but to be honest I’m not sure there’s enough room in the bodice for the two Christmas meals which I will be required to eat over the course of the day! I’ll see how I go, I might have to change into something more forgiving after lunch (because eating less really isn’t an option!).

I hope you all have a good holiday period! I’m planning a stay at home sewing marathon over New Year, then we head away for friends’ wedding. I had better get working on the dress I want to wear for the wedding…though I suppose I can always wear this one if I don’t get it done!

Grown up lady dress

You know how sometimes you get outfits that you can put on and immediately feel polished? Clothes that make you feel like you’ve got your shit together and can manage pretty much anything? I’m not exactly sure why, but thats how this dress made me feel when I wore it out yesterday. Like I was going to get stuff done! (I got lots of eating done, but thats another thing this dress is good for.)

  

This is the Kielo Dress from Named, with the sleeve add on they released earlier this year to make it winter friendly. I made it up in a cotton/lycra blend ponte from The Fabric Warehouse, I love the print! I realised when I was organishing my fabric a few months ago how few patterned fabrics I own (except for stripes, of course), so it was nice to use this one! 

  

The pattern was so simple to make up, once I got past the dreaded tracing/ adding seam allowance stage. The sleeve pattern incorperates a new armscye shape to trace as well, but it was all very straight forward. Sewing was simple as well, I didn’t make any changes for sewing a knit instead of a woven except for using my overlocker for the main construction. I sewed the darts with a straight stitch and used a twin needle for the hems and neckline. I really like the double ended darts in the back, it gives it such a nice shape. I thought I had increased their depth (and shaped the CB seam) enough to fit my sway back, but looking at these pictures there is still a bit of fabric pooling above and below the ties. Just as well I can’t usually see it!

I did make a few changes to the pattern itself, other than adding the sleeves and lopping about 10″ off the hem. For some reason I didn’t consider the distance between the shoulder and waist before I cut it out, so it did what every wrap dress I’ve ever tried on does and bloused terribly in the upper body if I tied it at my waist (or sat unflatteringly at the widest point of my hips if I tied it where the fabric wanted to go). Because of the shape of the wings I ended up with big scoops of fabric between my armpit and waist, not quite what I was going for! In desperation I ended up shorteneing the length of the wings by 2.5 inches on either side, tapering to nothing towards the hem. This helped reduce the excess of fabric, but does mean that they only just meet at the centre front, rather than the more dramatic overlapping shape they had before. But I’m much happier with the overall silhouette, so I’m ok with that!

  

Token blogger-in-a-Kielo-Dress shot! You can see that the wings look much shorter than every one elses…( I keep calling them wings in my head, how else should I describe them?) I felt like I was pulling a flasher pose here, hense the ridiculously hammy face!
  

I also changed up the neckline a bit, I felt it was too high with the long sleeves and relatively long hem. I just eyeballed a more scooped shape, about 2 inches lower at the centre front than how it’s drafted. I ended up drafting a facing for the neckline too, as I thought turning and stitching as instructed wouldn’t work on my now significantly more scooped out neckline (though I haven’t had great luck turning and stitching boat necklines either, to be honest). I treated the facing like I would a woven one, stitching and understitching it (though with a zig zag stitch rather than a straight stitch) and then topstitching it with the twin needle. I’m really happy with how it turned out, no waving or sagging to be seen!

   
 

The only downside to this dress is my incessant need to fiddle with it. I’m always smoothing the fabric under the wrapped sides, or adjusting the ties. Its not sitting perfectly in these photos either, probably because we’d just had lunch and I was full of delicious food and not worrying about it! I guess that makes this a more accurate representation of how it looks when being worn…

  

So there we go, my grown up dress! I think it must be the sleeves and the just below the knee length that make me feel like a proper adult… Does everyone else have clothes that make them feel like that? I’m sure it can’t just be me!

Satisfaction sewing

I hope you aren’t sick of listening to me gush all over this blog about how much I love the things that I’m sewing, because I’m totally in love with this weeks dress! I’ve had a really lucky run over the last six weeks or so, everything just seems to be coming together nicely. I think this is partly because I’m getting better at picking patterns and matching them with good fabric, and also because my sewing is just plain getting better. This week I made myself version B of the Alder Shirtdress, by Grainline Studios. I’ve already waxed lyrical about my love of Grainline, I love their aesthetic and I’ve always had amazing success with Grainline patterns, and the Alder was no exception…

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I made up a straight size 6, with no alterations (except for taking the hem up an inch instead of only half an inch, because I thought it would sit better). The fabric is a lovely Japanese cotton lawn I ordered from Miss Matatabi on Etsy, and it was luscious to sew with! I love lawn, its really nice to wear as well. If I’m ever heading somewhere tropical, this will be my dress of choice! Its so floaty and breezy. This is somewhat troublesome in Wellington, as we always have a bit more breeze than one might like…

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I love the gathered skirt, it makes the dress just a bit more interesting and girly, especially in such a light fabric. I decided to leave the pockets off, I’m not a huge fan of breast pockets! I love that about sewing my own clothes…if I don’t want it, I just don’t add it. I’m especially pleased with how the collar turned out, I used this tutorial from Four Square Walls again, and it was easy peasy!

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I used french seams throughout, except for the gathered panel, with is overlocked. I’ve always hated gathering fabric, but using three lines of basting as instructed by the pattern instead of the two I would usually use made a huge difference. The whole lot just seemed much more stable and better behaved. I managed to keep my gathers even when sewing as well, which helped. I like the attention to detail and care which has to go into sewing a neat collar and button band, and the rest of this dress was interesting and fun to sew as well. The whole process was intensely satisfying, really!

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I was planning to take this dress (and my two latest projects, my Scout and Moneta) up to Auckland this weekend for the Rolling Stones, but the forecast is for rain! Disaster, I’m going to have to rethink everything! If only i had my waterproof Malu finished…

I finally managed to get Monsieur behind the camera for these photos, though he managed to take a few extras when I wasn’t paying attention. This one is the “stop arseing around and give me the camera, now!” face, for your entertainment…

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Stripes for Summer

I had a bit of angst about what I should make out of this wonderful striped rayon blend knit (from the Fabric Store, of course), so I asked the internet via Instagram. Colette Moneta? Or a modified version of a Megan Nielsen Briar? Both are patterns I have made before, and I’m planning to make both again anyway, I was just waffling over fabric! The majority vote was for a Moneta, so I dutifully obliged. Sometimes its wonderful not to have to make decisions for myself!

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I made the short sleeved version, obviously, with a few changes after my last attempt. I shortened the bodice by about an inch, since the weight of the skirt pulls it down to an unflattering point on my short torso, and took the bodice in under the arms, tapering to the waist. I also took about an inch off the length of the sleeves, to make them more capped. I just think the length suits my proportions better!

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I also dropped the back lower, I’m a bit obsessed with scooped back necklines at the moment! I think its sexy, but not obviously so. Not that there’s anything wrong with cleavage, of course…Thats my biggest worry with this dress, actually. I feel that the high neckline combined with the stripes makes me look a bit Dolly Parton-esque!

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Mono-boob aside (what?), I do really like this dress. I love the stripes, and the swishiness of the skirt, and the fact that it is just really really comfortable! It looks just as good with black or brown, and I think it works equally well with my red Keds, ballet flats, sandals or heels. Yay for a dress for pretty much any occasion! It does look best with a belt, I think I need to look into doing a sway back adjustment if I make it again. I also love the lining! I’ve never tried lining a knit bodice before, but it works really well, especially with this thin, clingy knit. I used a remnant on Lyocell knit that i had in my stash. The lining also gives a really nice clean neckline, so I didn’t have any problems with it stretching out as I tried to hem it with my twin needle. I do think I should have maybe reinforced the neckline with some clear elastic, just to stop it sagging over time. It didn’t seem to stretch out when I wore it the other day though, so hopefully it’ll be ok!

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And here is one last gratuitous shot, purely to get my favourite shoes in! Can’t believe that I didn’t get them in any other photos, rubbish photography!

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Snug as a bug in a merino Moneta

I’m pretty sure that making a long sleeved merino dress is the last thing on my Winter Wardrobe list, and its not even officially winter yet! It certainly feels like winter, its snowing down south and it was 4 degrees this morning when I left for work. Talk about frosty! Happily, I now have a whole range of snuggly home made merino clothes to keep me warm.

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I’m sure everyone has seen this pattern by now, its the latest one from Colette. I’ve had some pretty major fitting issues with every Colette pattern that I’ve tried, which is such a bummer because I love their style! I figured that since this is a pattern for knits, fitting shouldn’t be such an issue, and its such a cute style that I decided to give it a crack.

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Unfortunately, I still had trouble getting it to fit. I took about an inch out of the under arm area, tapering to the end of the sleeve and waist, which made the bodice fit better initially. It was a really good length, hitting at my natural waist almost perfectly, until I added the skirt. Then the extra weight dragged the whole waist down to a really unflattering point! I took the skirt off, removed the elastic, and re-shirred it with a shorter length of elastic, which does a much better job at keeping the waist where it should be.

I think my main problem was my fabric choice. I went for this lovely thick merino knit because it was really soft and warm, not thinking about the fact that it is super stretchy, much more so than the fine jersey merino I have used so far. It just keeps growing! When I put it on on Sunday morning, the fit was quite snug in the torso, but by the afternoon when I took the photos for this post it had already begun to sag, especially in the back (as seen in the above photo). It has stretched out in the armpits as well, not very flattering!

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Possibly grey was not the best colour to pick either, Monsieur said it was a bit boring and matronly (horror!). Should have gone for navy! I was trying to pick a neutral colour that i could pair my masses of navy and mustard and red winter accessories with…oh well! I definitely plan to make another one of these for summer, because its a really nice shape, and I love the neckline and all of the collar variations. Hopefully all of the problems I had with this one will disappear when its made up in a cotton knit!

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For now though this is a super comfy, cozy dress that I can slob around the house in on the weekend, or I can wear it out paired with my Coppelia cardigan or a wide belt and scarf to disguise the sagging! Also, it has pockets. Warm, wooly pockets for my freezing fingers…

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Pockets!

I’ve got a few woven garments lined up, it feels like its been months since I sewed anything but a knit! I could really do with some winter skirts, so my new Hollyburn skirt pattern will be getting an outing soon…

My fancy Elisalex

Yay, its finished!

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I’m so pleased with this dress! It was such a pleasure it make, it fitted really well with only minimal adjustments, and it all came together so quickly, I’m pretty much planning my next one already. Look at the awesome shape of it!

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I did shorten the skirt, because I’m only 158cm tall (5’2″ in the old money), and the original skirt length would have nearly reached my ankles! I didn’t just want to cut it off at the right length, as that would have lessened the awesomely dramatic shape of the skirt, so I folded the pattern up in a concertina about 2/3 of the way down the skirt, and then graded the curve of the side seam down to the hem, keeping the original width at the bottom. I have no idea if thats a legit way to do it, but it seems to have worked, though the skirt is a slightly rounder shape, rather than the tulip shape of the pattern piece. I did take a little bit of the curve out of the widest part of the hips, to compensate for the shorter length.

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The only other adjustment I made was taking in the bodice at the top of the zip, to stop any gaping. Other than that, the fit was perfect! I’ve decided that I love princess seams, I’ve never made anything with them before. They made fitting the bodice so easy! I’ll definitely use the bodice again, though I might add a different skirt shape. I also used an invisible zip, rather than an exposed one, as I’m aiming for a vaguely 1960’s vintage look. I used Lauren from Lladybird’s invisible zip tutorial, and it went in like a dream! I don’t have an invisible zip foot (I don’t think they existed when my machine was made…) but using the normal zipper foot was fine. I still need to sew a hook and eye at the top of the zip, but I seem to have run out.

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The dress is made of a lovely dark green silk dupion. I really wanted something quite heavy, and when I pictured it in my head it was made out of slubby, heavy silk, so I was very pleased to find this! The bodice is lined with navy blue silk bermberg, as I couldn’t find any in green, and it felt so nice that I couldn’t bring myself to use anything artificial.

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The downside to this fabric is how much it wrinkles! I ironed it it just before I put it on for these photos, and look at the state of it! It also frayed like nothing on earth, my whole living room is covered in slubs of thick green thread. I pinked all of the pieces before i started to sew them, and some edges had frayed right past the pinking by the time I had finished sewing. It looks like Oscar the Grouch has been shaved over my my sewing machine.

After all my planning, I haven’t actually managed to make the belt or the bows for the shoulders, hopefully I’ll have those for next week. I actually won’t be too upset if the bows never make it into existence, as I think it looks pretty good anyway, but we’ll see how I get on!

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